The following speech was given by College of Music Outstanding Graduate Noah Fulton-Beale at the College of Music Commencement Ceremony in December 2011:
Good afternoon graduating students, faculty and staff, family and friends. It is a privilege to stand before you today on the occasion of our graduation. I would like to thank Deans Sher and Austin for the opportunity to speak and for the honor of being named the outstanding graduate. I would like to thank our professors, the members of the faculty of the College of Music, for all of the knowledge and wisdom that they have given to us. They have given their energy to help us become the performers, teachers, and scholars that we are today. Finally, I would like to thank my family for all of their love and support.
The last four years have been filled with challenges and difficulties but they were ultimately and rewarding. Today I stand before you a changed man. And each of my fine classmates sits before you similarly. Each of us has done an incredible amount of hard work to get to this point. We have listened, read, studied, and practiced. We have absorbed our teachers’ lessons and are applying them to our future success. Now we are officially ‘educated,’ thanks to the prodigious efforts of this fine institution. I know that we will continue to make you proud as we leave the shelter of these red-tiled roofs and sandstone walls and venture into the world.
This ceremony is called a commencement; it is a beginning, the start of a new phase in our lives. However, I would like to challenge you to make this a continuation.
Music is like the world: it’s too big for any one person to know all of it. We have chosen a field where it is not possible to learn everything in four years of an undergraduate degree, or ten years of graduate work, or twenty years of study. I imagine that it would take an entire lifetime to reach our greatest knowledge of music. So that is my challenge to you: to open your mind to discovering, and make learning a lifetime pursuit; to constantly find something new in music to make you excited to learn.
Music comes in all forms, great and small. Music is everywhere. With every breath, each living being joins in the eternal music of the cosmos. There is music in the rustle of the leaves, the cry of the beasts, the songs of birds, the bustle of the city, the rush of traffic, the clamor of the crowd. I’m not sure whether music makes the world go round or the world going round makes music. But humans are made of the earth and its music is inside their very core. Music is essential to who we are as humans. It is not just a reflection of our image, it is a part of everything we that we are and that we do. If there wasn’t music would speech exist? Would we be able to feel emotions? Would we be capable of logic or thought at all? The ability to understand music is one of the great miracles of the human mind. The mind has the power to distill the overwhelmingly infinite music of the spheres into comprehendible musical compositions that have the power to touch others: chants, songs, symphonies. The tangible forms of music that we compose and perform are microcosms of the world and representations of our experiences in it. They have the power to communicate, inspire, unite, and uplift.
People in every society in the world have been making music for longer than we are capable of knowing. Of course, musical style changes over time and space, accommodating a wide range of tastes and traditions. Today in America, we have inherited traditions as diverse as the people of this country. Like our society as a whole, our musical traditions are evolving at a dizzying pace, enabled partly by technology and the increased global connectivity that it brings.
As music specialists in our society, we have accepted a great responsibility. Both our predecessors and our descendants rely on us to carry the knowledge of music forward through our generation. It is our duty to learn the traditions of the past and keep them strong, and it is our task to contribute our ideas and humanity to music so that it can continue to develop and evolve. And above all, we must share the music with others so that they can know its wisdom, beauty, and power. The torch that we bear has the power to light peoples’ lives. We must keep the flame strong, and share its light with humanity.
One movement in the opus of our lives is coming to a close. The next one is not yet written, but I know that each of us will create our masterpiece. Congratulations to the class of December 2011!